£4 million for health protection research

News article 10 Jan 2014
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LSTM is part of a project to receive a multi-million pound award from the National Institute for Health Research to establish a Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) to look at Emerging and Zoonotic Infections.

The HPRU will be in partnership with Public Health England and The University of Liverpool, and will be one of 13 new national centres of excellence in multidisciplinary research to protect the nation’s health.

The project, led by The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health , is worth £3,999,911 and will utilise the expertise of LSTM’s Professor Steve Torr (pictured) and Senior Clinical Lecturer Dr Nick Beeching along with other collaborators within LSTM.

Emerging infections present significant challenges to human health. These include zoonotic pathogens which are transmitted from animals, such as hantavirus which causes kidney failure. Other pathogens are transmitted by insects or ticks, such as Lyme disease or Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

Professor Torr said: “Many emerging infectious diseases and zoonoses have similarities to well-known tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue and sleeping sickness.  The experience and research facilities of LSTM gained through a century of work on tropical diseases provide a unique platform for developing tools to tackle new infectious diseases threatening the UK.”

LSTM’s Dr Beeching said: “This new research programme allows us to build on 20 years of joint working with colleagues in Public Health England and in the University of Liverpool, to improve earlier diagnosis, management and prevention of a variety of diseases. Many of these are animal infections that man acquires by accident, and Liverpool has a long history of veterinarians working with doctors to understand and control these illnesses, both in the tropics and in the UK.”

The project is about developing new ways to protect the nation from existing and new health threats. Dr Beeching continued: “New diseases appear every year, so we continually need research to improve our capacity to detect and manage novel threats as quickly as possible.”

The HPRU will be led by the University of Liverpool’s Professor Tom Solomon, who said: “The HPRU will explore new ways of detecting and characterising pathogens, for example those which cause brain infection. We will also develop novel surveillance and epidemiological approaches, and improve our understanding of disease transmission, and the effect of climate change on this.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “These partnerships will bring together research from academia and Public Health England to ensure world class health protection research in England. I believe they will have a significant impact on the health of the population.”